"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Right, so if you go to Canada for a weekend you are advised not to leave your laptop on top of your car overnight, especially if it’s going pour down rain for a brief period of time. After an array of panic-inducing STOP blue screens of death that boded very ill for my laptop, my season preview, and my sanity, I have managed to extract the most critical bits of information from my PC and get them onto an external hard drive. I have learned a very valuable lesson about backups and making them extremely convenient so you don’t fall off the wagon after a while.
A new laptop is being lovingly assembled in Malaysia. In the meantime, which is unfortunately scheduled to last a week into the season, I am using all-purpose backup PC, which is old and slow. It also needs to be whipped into usable shape after a long layoff. Also I’m behind after three days sans internet and a three-hour delay on my plane flight back from New York. Upshot for readers: slow day today. Bear with me as I put the gun back in the drawer.
BLOGPOLL NOTE: Due to this and a number of login issues I wasn’t able to address for obvious reasons the poll will be delayed until Wednesday.
SIDE NOTE: the laptop currently in a hospital bed with an extremely erratic pulse has not only been on for basically two straight years but it’s suffered a vast array of indignities. The fan’s been tetchy for a while. When I took it to New York I dropped it, hard, shattering a hinge but leaving the functionality of the thing uncompromised. Now it’s gamely whispering all my data onto its will after being rained on and almost dying. I’m thinking of nicknaming Junior Hemingway “Dell Vostro 1500.”
This is the final for preseason. Changes from draft:
- Dropped UCLA, on whom I was being irrationally exuberant. Even if they improve markedly from last year, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be one of the 25 most deserving college football teams.
- Added Kansas in place of UCLA (though I moved them a couple sots back). They were a decent, not great team last year, and they return most of the pieces from a strong offense, and nearly all of the defensive line, to go along with the entire secondary. I have trepidation about their offensive line (must replace 3 starters, and a couple guys might be changing positions) and their linebackers (no starters return), but what team in the back end of the poll doesn't have a few question marks?
- Bumped Oklahoma State up, both because I had underrated them slightly I think (even if they have to replace 5 starters on defense, a mediocre defense still had them achieving at a high level least year), and because some of the teams ahead of them were overrated (i.e. the Miami Hurricanes, who also moved behind Iowa).
- Moved North Carolina into the poll, at the expense of Notre Dame. I didn't originally want to include the Irish in the poll at all (because they certainly haven't done anything to deserve over the past couple years), but couldn't think of a better team to slot in. UNC provided that. The change in that area caused a lot of things to change very slightly (i.e. Boise State moved down a bit).
- A couple more minor changes, though nothing bigger than moving a team up or down a spot.
When I originally filled out my ballot, it didn't seem like there were enough teams for 25 spots. Now, I feel like I have too many, and felt guilty leaving off an outfit like Nevada. All we can do is bide our time until Actual Football kicks off (10 days!) so we can see which teams really deserve their spots.
Arkansas 2 - Michigan 0
Before getting into some of the details of the game, it would help to refer back to the season preview that FormerlyAnonymous wrote last Sunday. The biggest thing to note, is that this Michigan's first home game in 2 years. Last year the team played at local high schools and even the occasional baseball outfield. While this facility is very temporary (the "locker rooms" are those portable buildings used as construction offices), the team appeared to really appreciate having a true home pitch with a grand stand and lights. I got there about five minutes into the game, and the stands were almost totally full, with about one third of the fans rooting for Arkansas. After the game I asked Coach Ryan what it was like to have his first true home game at Michigan:
Michigan has given us a great place to play. I want to thank the administration for providing us this wonderful venue. It is great to be able to play at home, at night and in front of our own fans. I just wish we would have played well.
I'll get to the last part in the second, but the Athletic Department really did put some money in a facility that will be replaced in year. The amenities are spartan (port-o-potties, mobile hot dog cart), but the field itself is amazing. Walking across it, I felt like I was walking down a fairway of a Country Club that should have thrown me out. It's just about the nicest patch of grass I've ever seen.
On the actual game, Michigan started out fairly well. They were able to move the ball and control the flow of the game. Most of the action was kept in the Arkansas end of the pitch with Michigan getting two decent shots on goal and three corner kicks. While the team was playing fairly well, there were a number of missed opportunities, either passes out of range of the cutting player, crosses that didn't get far enough into the box and players losing individual battles against the defenders. Coach Ryan described it:
I don't think we attacked like we meant to score a goal. I think we did very well getting up from the back into the final third, but then we wanted to go back again. I am very disappointed that we didn't take the kind of risks to score goals.
Despite the opportunities, Michigan wasn't able to get a goal. In the 36th minute, Arkansas got a mini break and got a rare opportunity in the Michigan zone. Kaily Anders ripped a shot from 30 yards that just snuck in under the crossbar. To me, that really seemed to change the game, and Coach Ryan agreed:
...I think the game really changed when they scored that first goal. I think the girls were shocked since they were playing better at that point and Arkansas gained some momentum.
From then on, Michigan never really had any momentum, and just let Arkansas dictate the rest of the game. In the 77th minute, Arkansas got another goal, and Bill Martin, who had been taking in the game with his wife, decided the game was basically over and took off. To all you resolute Michigan fans that stay through the entire game, the Event Staff person I was standing by made sure to jovially call Mr. Martin out on it. The game was effectively over at this point. There was one late free kick about 25-30 yards out which stood out to Coach Ryan when I asked him about set pieces after the game:
[Our set pieces] were terrible. We had one there near the end where we didn't even get the ball past the defensive line and they countered us off it.
One of the lone bright spots was the play of the two freshman starters, Eunnie Kim on the left wing and Holly Hein at center forward. Kim had a really nice shot attempt in the second half that elicited a nice diving save by the Arkansas keeper. A lot of action seemed to go to her side and she handled herself very well even in some physical plays in her first collegiate game. Hein's play was not as obvious to me in the middle. She had some nice balls to start breaks, but Ryan said she needs to be used more. Like a talented post in basketball, a good center forward needs to have quality ball touches in order to make an impact.
Coach Ryan was very obviously upset by the play of his team. I asked him what needed to change in order for the team to become successful against Valparaiso and into the future, and he didn't really lay out a rosy picture:
Mental toughness, grit. If your playing scared of Arkansas, your going to be scared of every team in the Big Ten. We're either going to have to toughen up or wait until we get players that are tough enough.
This isn't going to be a quick turnaround, especially when Ryan only had two scholarships to hand out. With the new facility coming next year (Ryan claims it will be one of the best in the region) and five scholarships coming available, we should really be able to see Ryan's vision come to fruition. As of now, despite being in his second year, he doesn't have many of his players and some of the players he inherited aren't really suited to what he wants to do (any parallels you can think of?). In 2010, we should see the plan coming together, and in 2011 this will be Coach Ryan's team, and if they are not competing for a Big Ten title, it is all on Ryan.
Note: Michigan played Valparaiso today, winning 2 - 1, despite only scoring one goal. Valpo went up 1-0 early with the equalizer coming on an own goal when a ball was served into the box and headed into the goal by the defense. The winning goal was scored by Kristen Goncalves who beat the goalie on a 1 on 1 after a long pass from midfield by last year's goal leader Amanda Bowery. Maybe these are the types of risks Coach Ryan was talking about.
Michigan Men’s Swimming: A History
After going on a rampage last month and writing ridiculously long posts about swimming related topics, Brian has asked me to try and raise some awareness for the Swim Team through weekly posts. And so I begin on this journey, hoping to foster interest in the sport and create a rabid fan base that packs 110,000 into Canham Natatorium (knowing full well that the fire marshal will be called).
Unbeknownst to many, the Michigan Men’s swimming and diving program is one of the most respected and prestigious varsity sports that the University has to offer. Since it’s inception in 1921, the program has racked up an astonishing 18 National Titles, while only employing 9 different coaches. The 86 seasons of Men’s swimming have produced many outstanding and unparalleled accomplishments, from NCAA individual and team championships to Olympic medalists and world record holders. Of the 9 coaches that have been employed by the University, 6 have coached for less than 5 years. While those 6 briefly tenured coaches certainly did leave their mark on the program, there were 3 coaches who oversaw 75 years of Michigan Swimming History. The fact that those 3 coaches succeeded at such a prominent level for an average of 25 years each, is simply astounding. Now, I don’t want to go too much in detail on the coaches here for hopes of keeping this post a respectable length however, for those interested, expect a full post on Michigan Swimming’s Coaching History to be out soon.
While success at Michigan is synonymous with the storied football program, Michigan swimming is the epitome of domination, never finishing less than fourth in the conference (excluding the first year of “conferences” when Michigan finished 6th). Over its history, the Men’s team has achieved a record of 613-118-6 for an 83.6% winning percentage. In addition to this overall record, Michigan has gone 404-57-4 in Conference for an 87.3% clip. Now take a second to comprehend that. Michigan has won more than 80% of its meets. If you had bet money on Michigan winning the conference every year, you would have been right nearly 40% of the time, an astounding number especially given the consummate depth of the Big Ten. Michigan has, on average, won a national championship every five years, although most of this success was achieved during the Matt Mann coaching era (this includes unofficial national titles which Michigan won prior to the inception of the NCAA Championship Meet), resulting in 18 national titles, a record that no other varsity sport can claim. (Note: In addition, Michigan is the only school that can boast three coaches who have won NCAA championships in Swimming)
In an era where rankings mean everything, to both player and fans alike, the swim team’s unmatched success has gone unnoticed by the majority of the alumni, except for the brief moments during which the team walks across the football field to honor their accomplishments (a tradition that I was able to take part in before the Illinois game). The swim team’s worst NCAA performance was 25th with the second worst performance being 17th. The team has finished in the top 5 an astounding 48 times. Now all you football fans out there, think about that. How excited would you be if the worst the football program ever finished was 25th? What if that was a year that they went 9-0 overall and won the Big Ten? That is how successful Michigan swimming is; success that unfortunately and unrightfully goes all but unnoticed, buried beneath a magnanimous group of high-profile, high-revenue programs.
Much of the allure of the more high-profile sports (football, basketball, hockey) has been generated through the emergence of hated rivals. The Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry pushed both programs into the main stream, with the rivalry growing to be arguably the best in all of sports. The Swimming program is not without its own notable adversaries. Unlike many of the traditional varsity sports, though, Michigan’s main rival has been Indiana, who we have managed a respectable 41-29-2 (58.3%) record against. Another of our main rivals, one you might recognize, is Ohio State, who finished 2nd in the NCAA Championships five of the eleven times Michigan won. Despite their reputable history, the record that they compiled while competing against Michigan was anything but illustrious. To date, Michigan has compiled a 63-11-2 (84.2%) record against Ohio State. While they may have been good, we were better.
As for the rest of our big ten rivals:
Indiana: 41-29-2 (58.3%)
Iowa: 28-2-0 (93.3%)
Minnesota: 36-2-0 (94.7%)
Northwestern: 38-4-0 (90.5%)
Ohio State: 63-11-2 (84.2%)
Penn State: 6-0-0 (100%)
Purdue: 54-0-0 (100%)
Wisconsin: 43-4-0 (91.5%)
*(Our last meet against Illinois was in 1989 before their team was cut from the budget)
Now those are some good numbers, against quality opponents. I say this only because I intentionally left out Michigan State until this point. If you’re a Sparty you might want to look away, you probably won’t take kindly to this part:
Michigan State: 79-5-0 (94%)
The first meet between the two instate rivals was held during Michigan’s inaugural year and from that point on Michigan achieved a dominance that Mike Hart would have been proud of. In doing research on State’s swim team (I wanted to have stats to back up my statement of their ineptitude) I was unable to locate a team history. I think that is a statement in and of itself that MSU hadn’t even compiled a history for a team that has been competing since 1922. The following is slightly biased and is targeted towards a very recent timeframe (due to my affiliation with Michigan sports and my age), however, Michigan State swimming has managed to flounder, despite the popularity of swimming in the Midwest. To put it simply, despite a lot of fast swimmers coming out of Michigan, there have only been handfuls that have attended State… over 86 years. Some of this is due to inferior facilities which can severely damper a recruits interest, although Michigan’s doesn’t rival the modern aspect that some, such as Tennessee have recently achieved. More importantly, if you are a fast swimmer you go to Michigan. It’s as simple as that.
Now that I’ve gone on my Sparty rant, I have realized how long this post is getting. For that reason I will cut it short, with a few ideas fresh in my mind for future posts (Coaches, Olympic tradition/famous swimmers & divers, Recruiting, and a Current update of the swim team). If there’s anything in particular you guys want me to write about just let me know. I understand that Swimming and Diving is not one of the sports that everyone follows, however I hope that by sharing my enthusiasm for the sport and our program in my continued posts, I may be able make fans out of you.
As I'm sure most Michigan fans know by now, tomorrow is the team's annual fan day. Fans will have the opportunity to meet the players, get autographs (one per trip through the line, mind you), and this year, see the inside of the Al Glick Fieldhouse as they wait in line for an autograph from fearless leader. Anyway, MGoBlue drops the details:
The event is free and open to the public. Fans will be allowed to enter the autograph area starting at 12:30 p.m. Parking will be available in the Blue Lot surrounding Crisler Arena. Fans can enter the area through the southwest entrance (just over the railroad tracks) or through the northeast entrance (main softball entrance)...
Michigan players will be signing autographs inside Al Glick Field House and Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Coach Rodriguez will be signing autographs inside Glick Field House, near the entrance to Schembechler Hall. There will be inflatable items and games for kids on the outdoor practice field.
Sounds like much more of an event than in past years (and if you followed my writings at Varsity Blue, you know I'm very much in favor of this), and should be a fun time for fans who can make it out. It's also the first chance to purchase the "All-in for Michigan" towel, pictured above:
Towels purchased at Fan Day are $5. Towels will be sold for $6.99 after Fan Day at the M Go Blue Shop, The M-Den, Moe Sport Shops, Dunham’s Sporting Goods, Dicks Sporting Goods, area Meijer stores, and The Pizza House on U-M’s campus. A portion of the proceeds from each towel will benefit the campaign to build a new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital.
I encourage any Michigan fans who have the opportunity to attend this event tomorrow afternoon.
Last year at my old digs, I chronicled the weekly performances of Michigan commits in their final season of high school ball. That feature, Friday Night Lights, will make the move with me to MGoBlog. High school football news is not always so easy to come by, even in today's internet-centric world, so let me know if you have any additional information for any installment of the series.
MI QB Devin Gardner
By all accounts, Gardner is poised for a monstrous senior season. He's worked hard over the offseason on improving his ability to throw the ball, his conditioning should be at a peak, and his Inkster Vikings are expected to be one of the best teams in the state of Michigan.
There are a couple things that could hold him back: The Vikings play every single game on the road, including a couple trips to the Cleveland area, and another to Steubenville, Ohio (damn near in West Virginia). He also lost his #1 target from last year in current Wolverine Cameron Gordon. Still, look for excellent numbers from Devin in this space.
|Devin Gardner 2008|
|Zeeland West||W 27-22||7||12||136||58.33||1||0||11.33||9||65||7.22||1|
|Highland Park||L 22-24||3||1||0|
|Edsel Ford||W 41-7||3||1|
|Garden City||W 42-14||5||8||99||62.50||2||0||12.38||6||103||17.17||2|
|Allen Park||W 22-15||11||21||128||52.38||0||0||6.10||12||49||4.08||3|
|East Grand Rapids||L 24-43||5||16||84||31.25||1||1||5.25||12||44||3.67||0|
SC QB Cornelius Jones
Jones's season last year went poorly, as did his team's. However, Spartanburg should be one of the most improved in the area, and Jones will try to put up better numbers. In his second year under the current coaching staff, and Cornelius's second playing high school football, there's nowhere to go but up.
|Cornelius Jones 2008|
|Union County||W 31-0||10||16||122||62.50||0||0||7.625||18||30||1.67||2|
|Boiling Springs||L 22-29||12||20||231||60.00||1||0||11.55||21||79||3.76||0|
|Dorman||L 3-28||DNP (Illness)|
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
Hopkins, named one of the best players in the Dallas area, will try to build on a solid junior season and show that he is an elite player. However, he may make more of an impact defensively than carrying the rock.
|Stephen Hopkins 2008|
|Plano West||L 23-27||30||170||5.67||2||4||37||9.25||0|
|Fossil Ridge||W 49-28||25||208||8.32||3||1||28||28.00||0|
|Flower Mound||W 28-21||29||202||6.97||3||0||0||-||0|
TX RB Tony Drake
Drake has been a do-everything for Skyline. This year, he should be the starting RB after last year's starter moved on to Iowa State.
|Tony Drake 2008|
|Plano East||W 42-0||5||69||13.80||0||2||19||9.50||0|
|Lake Highlands||L 20-24||1||3||3.00||0||0||0||-||0|
|De Soto||W 51-26||0||0||-||0||0||0||-||0|
|Cypress Woods||W 35-21||7||56||8.00||0||0||0||-||0|
|Stony Point||L 14-28||1||2||2.00||0||0||0||-||0|
MI RB Austin White
White put up pretty good numbers last year, as he led Stevenson to the state semifinals before bowing out to eventual champion Rockford. The only thing that prevented him from getting ridiculous stats was a ton of blowouts. The Spartans should be a pretty strong team again, and White should have the opportunity to continue mixing long runs with steady production on the ground. Look for him to potentially flex out as a receiver more often this year, and hopefully contribute on defense.
|Austin White 2008|
MI WR Ricardo Miller
Miller moves from Orlando to Michigan, where he'll be a major boost to Pioneer's receiving corps. He'll be the #1 option for the Pioneers and should put up impressive statistics.
|Ricardo Miller 2008|
|Cypress Creek||W 36-0||2||64||32.00||1||0||0||-||0|
|Oak Ridge||W 22-14||4||70||17.50||0||1||14||14.00||0|
|West Orange||W 49-21||3||71||23.67||1||0||0||-||0|
MI WR/TE Jeremy Jackson
Jackson's Huron River Rats are making the transition to a triple-option offense, which doesn't bode well for his receiving numbers. He is also changing positions (probably to tight end), so it remains to be seen what kind of statistics Jeremy will produce in '09.
|Jeremy Jackson 2008|
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Robinson will play both ways for Canton South. Will he make a bigger impact at wide receiver or safety?
|Jerald Robinson 2008|
OH WR DJ Williamson
Williamson hasn't put up impressive numbers yet in his high school career. However, he has track star speed, and has one more year to impress onlookers.
|DJ Williamson 2008|
LA Slot Drew Dileo
Dileo's Parkview Baptist team should be strong as always, and Dileo should perform well. He was the team's MVP last year.
OH OL Christian Pace
Pace helped Avon Lake run over opponents last year (to the tune of 200+ yards per game on the ground), and looks to repeat that performance in 2009. The Shoremen are the #8 team in Northeast Ohio heading into the 2009 season.
|Christian Pace 2008|
|Maple Heights||W 38-26|
|Brecksville-Broadview Heights||L 6-11|
|Olmstead Falls||W 34-7|
|North Olmstead||W 12-6|
OH DT Terry Talbott
Talbott plays defensive tackle for Huber Heights, making statistics pretty hard to find for him. Huber Heights should field a pretty good team this year, though.
|Terry Talbott 2008|
|Lakota West||W 20-17|
|East St. Louis||W 20-12|
|Padua Fransiscan||W 21-17|
|South Lake||W 14-31|
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
Paskorz is one of the lower-rated kids in Michigan's '10 class. He'll have his chance to prove the doubters wrong as a senior.
|Jordan Paskorz 2008|
|Shaler Area||L 6-21|
|Pine Richland||L 0-31|
|Franklin Regional||L 7-21|
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Kinard played with current Wolverines Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell last year. Will he have a good year without them by his side? Kinard returned one fumble 92 yards for a touchdown, and had one 54-yard touchdown run and another for 70+ yards last year. Other information on him is difficult to find.
|Antonio Kinard 2008|
|Chagrin Falls||L 0-21|
PA DE Ken Wilkins
Wilkins scored touchdowns on a 55-yard fumble return and a 26-yard blocked punt last year.
|Ken Wilkins 2008|
|Chartiers Valley||L 0-27|
FL S Marvin Robinson
Robinson has played both safety and running back for Lake Region. He's been named Preseason 2nd-Team All-State.
|Marvin Robinson 2008|
|Haines City||L 7-22|
|Winter Haven||L 0-17|
|Lake Wales||L 13-39|
|South Lake||W 18-10|
OH CB Courtney Avery
Avery is primarily a roboQB for Lexington, though he was also an all-state cornerback last year. Michigan fans are likely more interested in his defensive exploits.
|Courtney Avery 2008|
|Mount Vernon||W 49-7|
|Clear Fork||W 41-21|
|West Holmes||W 56-6|
|Sylvania Southview||L 24-38|
OH CB Terrence Talbott
Talbott is a pure corner for Wayne, who looks to have a big year with a number of junior and senior D-1 prospects.
|Terrence Talbott 2008|
|Lakota West||W 20-17|
|East St. Louis||W 20-12|
|Padua Fransiscan||W 21-17|
|South Lake||W 14-31|
Apologies for the inconsistent formatting. It will hopefully be much better during the course of the current season.